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Are you a Subjectivist or an Objectivist?

How would you classify yourself?

  • Ultra Objectivist (ONLY care about measurements and what has been double-blind tested.)

    Votes: 21 5.1%
  • Hard Objectivist (Measurements are almost always the full story. Skeptical of most subjective claim)

    Votes: 117 28.2%
  • Objectivist (Measurements are very important but not everything.)

    Votes: 180 43.4%
  • Neutral/Equal

    Votes: 38 9.2%
  • Unsure

    Votes: 7 1.7%
  • Subjectivist (There's much measurements don't show. My hearing impressions are very important.)

    Votes: 24 5.8%
  • Hard Subjectivist (Might only use measurements on occasion but don't pay attention to them usually.)

    Votes: 5 1.2%
  • Ultra Subjectivist (Measurements are WORTHLESS, what I hear is all that matters.)

    Votes: 3 0.7%
  • Other (Please explain!)

    Votes: 20 4.8%

  • Total voters
    415

MattHooper

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Yes, that is true. Our senses lie to us about reality in order to be more useful to us.

My point was that I think it muddies things to say, in such examples, that our senses are "lying" to us. They could only be "useful" to us insofar as they are delivering some truth about the world, and in the case of "sunrise/sunset" and "solidity" they are telling some essential, useful truth.
Not the whole story, but not a lie.

(Whereas someone thinking she was cured by homeopathic remedies, or someone believing he heard a difference between the Nordost and Amazon basic USB cable as measured by Amirm, would truly be deceived by their subjective inference).
 

egellings

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Colloquialisms might well be what words like rising & setting are.
 

MattHooper

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Trigger Warning: Bunch of subjective descriptions ahead.

I was at a friend's house last week for dinner. The couple had recently bought a used pair of Kef LS50 speakers. I sat in the sweet spot and listened for a while, and the speakers played on during dinner. It was playing an eclectic station with lots of small acoustic music (folk, chamber, etc). When some well recorded vocals would come on and...I can't help myself sometimes...I would listen to the sound of the voice through the speakers and compare it to the sound of my friend's real voices. "What are the fundamental characteristics that seem to distinguish the real voices from the reproduced?." The conclusion I came to was essentially the same thing I usually hear: First there is a sort of electronic edged, hardened character - vocal sibilance having more the impression of "steely" hardness and sharpness or an electronic distortion, rather than the softer breathy quality of real human sibilance. The voice also lacked the density, the sense of "being solid, in the room, moving air with the acoustic power of a real human speaking." It sounded reductive, reduced, squeezed down from the real thing. The voice texture sounded artificial - it didn't have the sound of real organic materials, the "wet damped, fleshy" quality of the real human voice. And the reproduced sound overall, whether for vocals or instruments, had a sort of "canned" quality. A slightly hardened "electronic glaze" separated it from the real acoustic sounds in the room. Almost like all the instruments were encased in amber, lacking the "air" and presence of real sounds in the room. Subtle textures that tell you "this is real" had been glazed over, smoothed away.

As I'm fascinated by real vs reproduced sound, and these comparisons guide my own decisions on what I want from my audio system, I find doing these subjective comparisons fascinating. But, much of that will float like a led balloon in a forum like this. Unless I could talk in terms of scientific evidence for these impressions.

More subjective observations:

I was at a friend's house (audio reviewer) listening to some new equipment. We played a lot of stuff, including many familiar tracks. The sound coming through that system was almost astoundingly vivid, clear and detailed. A trumpet, sax, drum rim shot, etc had a "right there" immediacy and clarity, and the way it was effortless to "hear in to" any mix to exactly how an instrument or voice was processed or treated (reverbs etc) was really something. We also listened to jazz and orchestral pieces.

And yet, while all this was amazing, nothing to my ears sounded truly "right" or natural, as I hear those things in real life. Something was missing which I could only put as 'natural timbral colour.'

I'd liken the experience to seeing an Ansel Adams black and white photo of a symphony orchestra. The photo can be astonishingly detailed. So detailed that every instrument is sharply captured in the photo, allowing you to identify every instrument. Yet it doesn't make that leap to the instruments "looking as they do in real life" because it's all in black and white, missing the color information. It's all "wrong" in that respect. The sound from the system struck me in just the same way: astounding amounts of detail giving me insight in to the recordings, yet timbrally "black and white." When I close my eyes and listen to an acoustic guitar, trumpet or symphony orchestra my mind registers "tonal colors" that just didn't happen when closing my eyes listening to this system. My mind had to constantly work to "color correct" for this.

Whereas: When I came home an listened to many of the same tracks on my system it was like "aaah, yes!" While it didn't have the vividness and clarity of my friend's system, the colour came back on. Acoustic guitar had that recognizable "wooden body warmth" the strings that "rich harmonic sparkle" a trumpet that "brassy golden glow" tonality that the real thing produces in my impression. My brain doesn't have to do this extra work of "color correcting" - things just seem to "sound right."

This is exactly what I worked for in putting together my system and why I find it so satisfying. It's not that it is therefore "accurately reproducing the sound of the instruments as they sounded in front of the microphones" or "indistinguishable from the real thing. But rather, that it has some important characteristics of "timbral rightness" that is consonant with what I hear in the real life counterparts. And that is enough to help me enjoy it more "yes, that IS how a drum snare sounds - that sort of snappy, papery quality - that IS what I love about acoustic guitars coming through," etc.

On perhaps an even more controversial note: the reason that I have, through various trials, stuck with my current tube amplification is that it seems to me to, in my system, nudge the sound slightly more in the direction my brain accepts as "natural, related to real sounds." (All of this is always with the caveat of possible sighted bias/imagination).

Stereo is never truly going to sound real and totally natural. But one of the things I hear in reproduced sound is an artificial "reductive/tight/squeezed" quality. So if you take a typical studio recording of a small group - vocalist, several acoustic instruments (or even some electric),
on an accurate system I can hear the influence of the microphone/mixing/processing on each element. The voice or sax and it's surrounding acoustic has been sort of "formed and squeezed" by the mic pick up pattern and any subsequent processing. Aurally, it's like each element is under it's own different level of gravity deforming their size and the space around them, usually shrinking their presence too. This is one of the
things that cues my brain to how unnatural things sound. Squeezed, tight, hardened, artificially separated from the acoustic space of the room.

But when I use certain tube amplification and tubes, there seems to be a slight "relaxing" of these qualities. Perhaps a bit of defocusing - instrumental edges and their surrounding acoustic seem to enrich, bloom slightly, blur in to other boundaries. This I perceive as sounding less obviously artificial. So a trumpet, center stage, no longer sounds "artificially squeezed and hard" but relaxed, richer and rounder, and it's surrounding acoustic no longer sounds "squeezed hard around it" but it just blends softly in to the rest of the acoustic of the recorded space and that of my room. It now sounds that much more relaxed, like a trumpet just playing in "real space" in front of me. It's not perfectly realistic of course, but it's a significant-to-me step in the direction of sounding more natural and more pleasing in that respect. It reduces the sense of artificiality, of sound squeezed out of speakers vs just appearing in space around the speakers.

All these things seemed like the apparently differences I heard between the tracks on my system vs on my pal's astonishingly vivid but artificial sounding system. (Though this is subjective: I can easily see someone finding my pal's system as more realistic sounding).

As I've said before, as much as I appreciate this forum, this subjective aspect - "how things sound - talking about and describing the subjective impressions we have when listening to a system" - is an important part of the hobby for me (and many others). Similar to foodies discussing and describing the food they are eating (which I enjoy as well). Or how we often try to describe our experience in all human realms. Even if we could reliably correlate all our subjective impressions to objective data that is causing those impressions , there are still the actual subjective impressions to discuss and describe!

In this sense: Subjective impressions and descriptions of sound, as in much of life, aren't necessarily "Anti-scientific" - unless they make claims that contradict current science or engineering knowledge - but being informal they are "Un-scientific." And "un-scientific" inferences can be reasonable - we use them, often successfully, all day long. But that's still enough so that ASR members will have little interest or patience with "mere subjective descriptions." Which makes sense, given this is a forum where people come to discuss claims that, one hopes, have good objective evidence in order to understand audio gear.

But since in any practical sense we can't submit much of our everyday inferences and decisions to scientific controls, I'm fine with going along with and discussing audio in these subjective terms with other audiophiles. Scaling my confidence levels to the type of claim. It's a blast hanging out with my audio pals, discussing the sound we hear.

This is why, aside from enjoying what this forum has to offer, I also often have to turn to other audiophiles or certain subjective reviews to enjoy this aspect of the hobby. If I'm reading a subjective review I know it's not scientific...and in some respects the reviewer could be flat out incorrect in certain claims. But when I see someone who seems to be "hearing and caring about the things I hear and care about in reproduced sound" and putting them in to words - the type of stuff often frowned upon here - I at least have that connection to that audiophile or reviewer. And it has also led me down some very happy paths in terms of audio gear I've really loved.
 
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Inner Space

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But one of the things I hear in reproduced sound is an artificial "reductive/tight/squeezed" quality.
Absolutely. And more of a mystery than you would think. I was walking down Columbus Avenue on blocks full of small stores, hearing music playing from inside most of them, the ones falling behind me fading away, the ones ahead picking up, and I heard a faint jazz guitar number coming up in the distance, and knew instantly, immediately and with complete certainty that it was live, not recorded. Sure enough, on the corner a couple blocks ahead I came upon a busker with a battered Epiphone and a battery-powered Pignose at his feet.

So, not a natural acoustic instrument, and very limited power and dynamics from his amp. Yet unmistakably happening there and then, not recorded. Open air, not in a room, which makes a difference, but not all the difference, I think. Normally I would blame the miniaturized, compressed qualities recordings have, but the Pignose is a sad little device in itself. We may never figure it out, but I wish we could.

And without beating an expired equine, let's not apologize for accurate, perceptive subjective reports. Suppose recording had never been invented. Until today, when a designer had built a system, using every objective means at his disposal. Suppose he asked you, "What do you think of this?" Your type of report would be absolutely necessary, valuable, essential and useful - as it has been, in fact, in every step of every development. Objective and subjective are not opposites - they are equal and sequential parts of the process.
 

Vik

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Neither of the reply options in the poll (except "Other") apply to me. If I buy equipment I shall use, me ears have always have the last word, and that would be true even if we had measurements that showed everything about a product. Measurements are still really interesting, of course, when used as suggestions for products to check out.
 

majingotan

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Trigger Warning: Bunch of subjective descriptions ahead.

I was at a friend's house last week for dinner. The couple had recently bought a used pair of Kef LS50 speakers. I sat in the sweet spot and listened for a while, and the speakers played on during dinner. It was playing an eclectic station with lots of small acoustic music (folk, chamber, etc). When some well recorded vocals would come on and...I can't help myself sometimes...I would listen to the sound of the voice through the speakers and compare it to the sound of my friend's real voices. "What are the fundamental characteristics that seem to distinguish the real voices from the reproduced?." The conclusion I came to was essentially the same thing I usually hear: First there is a sort of electronic edged, hardened character - vocal sibilance having more the impression of "steely" hardness and sharpness or an electronic distortion, rather than the softer breathy quality of real human sibilance. The voice also lacked the density, the sense of "being solid, in the room, moving air with the acoustic power of a real human speaking." It sounded reductive, reduced, squeezed down from the real thing. The voice texture sounded artificial - it didn't have the sound of real organic materials, the "wet damped, fleshy" quality of the real human voice. And the reproduced sound overall, whether for vocals or instruments, had a sort of "canned" quality. A slightly hardened "electronic glaze" separated it from the real acoustic sounds in the room. Almost like all the instruments were encased in amber, lacking the "air" and presence of real sounds in the room. Subtle textures that tell you "this is real" had been glazed over, smoothed away.

As I'm fascinated by real vs reproduced sound, and these comparisons guide my own decisions on what I want from my audio system, I find doing these subjective comparisons fascinating. But, much of that will float like a led balloon in a forum like this. Unless I could talk in terms of scientific evidence for these impressions.

More subjective observations:

I was at a friend's house (audio reviewer) listening to some new equipment. We played a lot of stuff, including many familiar tracks. The sound coming through that system was almost astoundingly vivid, clear and detailed. A trumpet, sax, drum rim shot, etc had a "right there" immediacy and clarity, and the way it was effortless to "hear in to" any mix to exactly how an instrument or voice was processed or treated (reverbs etc) was really something. We also listened to jazz and orchestral pieces.

And yet, while all this was amazing, nothing to my ears sounded truly "right" or natural, as I hear those things in real life. Something was missing which I could only put as 'natural timbral colour.'

I'd liken the experience to seeing an Ansel Adams black and white photo of a symphony orchestra. The photo can be astonishingly detailed. So detailed that every instrument is sharply captured in the photo, allowing you to identify every instrument. Yet it doesn't make that leap to the instruments "looking as they do in real life" because it's all in black and white, missing the color information. It's all "wrong" in that respect. The sound from the system struck me in just the same way: astounding amounts of detail giving me insight in to the recordings, yet timbrally "black and white." When I close my eyes and listen to an acoustic guitar, trumpet or symphony orchestra my mind registers "tonal colors" that just didn't happen when closing my eyes listening to this system. My mind had to constantly work to "color correct" for this.

Whereas: When I came home an listened to many of the same tracks on my system it was like "aaah, yes!" While it didn't have the vividness and clarity of my friend's system, the colour came back on. Acoustic guitar had that recognizable "wooden body warmth" the strings that "rich harmonic sparkle" a trumpet that "brassy golden glow" tonality that the real thing produces in my impression. My brain doesn't have to do this extra work of "color correcting" - things just seem to "sound right."

This is exactly what I worked for in putting together my system and why I find it so satisfying. It's not that it is therefore "accurately reproducing the sound of the instruments as they sounded in front of the microphones" or "indistinguishable from the real thing. But rather, that it has some important characteristics of "timbral rightness" that is consonant with what I hear in the real life counterparts. And that is enough to help me enjoy it more "yes, that IS how a drum snare sounds - that sort of snappy, papery quality - that IS what I love about acoustic guitars coming through," etc.

On perhaps an even more controversial note: the reason that I have, through various trials, stuck with my current tube amplification is that it seems to me to, in my system, nudge the sound slightly more in the direction my brain accepts as "natural, related to real sounds." (All of this is always with the caveat of possible sighted bias/imagination).

Stereo is never truly going to sound real and totally natural. But one of the things I hear in reproduced sound is an artificial "reductive/tight/squeezed" quality. So if you take a typical studio recording of a small group - vocalist, several acoustic instruments (or even some electric),
on an accurate system I can hear the influence of the microphone/mixing/processing on each element. The voice or sax and it's surrounding acoustic has been sort of "formed and squeezed" by the mic pick up pattern and any subsequent processing. Aurally, it's like each element is under it's own different level of gravity deforming their size and the space around them, usually shrinking their presence too. This is one of the
things that cues my brain to how unnatural things sound. Squeezed, tight, hardened, artificially separated from the acoustic space of the room.

But when I use certain tube amplification and tubes, there seems to be a slight "relaxing" of these qualities. Perhaps a bit of defocusing - instrumental edges and their surrounding acoustic seem to enrich, bloom slightly, blur in to other boundaries. This I perceive as sounding less obviously artificial. So a trumpet, center stage, no longer sounds "artificially squeezed and hard" but relaxed, richer and rounder, and it's surrounding acoustic no longer sounds "squeezed hard around it" but it just blends softly in to the rest of the acoustic of the recorded space and that of my room. It now sounds that much more relaxed, like a trumpet just playing in "real space" in front of me. It's not perfectly realistic of course, but it's a significant-to-me step in the direction of sounding more natural and more pleasing in that respect. It reduces the sense of artificiality, of sound squeezed out of speakers vs just appearing in space around the speakers.

All these things seemed like the apparently differences I heard between the tracks on my system vs on my pal's astonishingly vivid but artificial sounding system. (Though this is subjective: I can easily see someone finding my pal's system as more realistic sounding).

As I've said before, as much as I appreciate this forum, this subjective aspect - "how things sound - talking about and describing the subjective impressions we have when listening to a system" - is an important part of the hobby for me (and many others). Similar to foodies discussing and describing the food they are eating (which I enjoy as well). Or how we often try to describe our experience in all human realms. Even if we could reliably correlate all our subjective impressions to objective data that is causing those impressions , there are still the actual subjective impressions to discuss and describe!

In this sense: Subjective impressions and descriptions of sound, as in much of life, aren't necessarily "Anti-scientific" - unless they make claims that contradict current science or engineering knowledge - but being informal they are "Un-scientific." And "un-scientific" inferences can be reasonable - we use them, often successfully, all day long. But that's still enough so that ASR members will have little interest or patience with "mere subjective descriptions." Which makes sense, given this is a forum where people come to discuss claims that, one hopes, have good objective evidence in order to understand audio gear.

But since in any practical sense we can't submit much of our everyday inferences and decisions to scientific controls, I'm fine with going along with and discussing audio in these subjective terms with other audiophiles. Scaling my confidence levels to the type of claim. It's a blast hanging out with my audio pals, discussing the sound we hear.

This is why, aside from enjoying what this forum has to offer, I also often have to turn to other audiophiles or certain subjective reviews to enjoy this aspect of the hobby. If I'm reading a subjective review I know it's not scientific...and in some respects the reviewer could be flat out incorrect in certain claims. But when I see someone who seems to be "hearing and caring about the things I hear and care about in reproduced sound" and putting them in to words - the type of stuff often frowned upon here - I at least have that connection to that audiophile or reviewer. And it has also led me down some very happy paths in terms of audio gear I've really loved.

IMHO, your friend's system neither added nor removed information from the actual source file. His/her system decoded and reproduced information as closest to the source file as possible regardless how good or bad subjectively (based on your subjective preferences). I bet if his/her system is fed with exemplary mastered file, it would've had the same emotional/illusionary realism that is heard in real life. Unfortunately, most music mastered today is far from being natural sounding (subjectively) especially through a transparent system. Vinyl currently fares much better in this regard than digital. This is where pairing a tube amp (with desired harmonic distortion characteristics) would take off the "digital/electronic glaze" to make a poor recording more tolerable sounding hence it triggers a listener's emotions as more engaging than a more transparent system.
 

egellings

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How much of the sound quality is in the recording rather than the playback system?
 

SuicideSquid

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How much of the sound quality is in the recording rather than the playback system?
Depends entirely on the recording and the playback system.

Bootleg of a concert from 1972 recorded on tape? No system will make that sound good.

Modern studio recording produced with care, using high-quality mics and preamps, carefully mixed by a professional and mastered in a way that doesn't completely flatten the dynamic range? That puts the ball in your stereo's court.
 

Robin L

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How much of the sound quality is in the recording rather than the playback system?
More to the point---how much of sound quality is in the performer? Are there performers who are essentially recordable? Others who are the opposite? A crappy recording of first rate musicians will always sound better than a first rate recording of crappy musicians.

[this is much like my rule of thumb for historically informed performance practice: the right note on the wrong instrument is always more right than the wrong note on the right instrument.]
 

Axo1989

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Trigger Warning: Bunch of subjective descriptions ahead.

I was at a friend's house last week for dinner. The couple had recently bought a used pair of Kef LS50 speakers. I sat in the sweet spot and listened for a while, and the speakers played on during dinner. It was playing an eclectic station with lots of small acoustic music (folk, chamber, etc). When some well recorded vocals would come on and...I can't help myself sometimes...I would listen to the sound of the voice through the speakers and compare it to the sound of my friend's real voices. "What are the fundamental characteristics that seem to distinguish the real voices from the reproduced?." The conclusion I came to was essentially the same thing I usually hear: First there is a sort of electronic edged, hardened character - vocal sibilance having more the impression of "steely" hardness and sharpness or an electronic distortion, rather than the softer breathy quality of real human sibilance. The voice also lacked the density, the sense of "being solid, in the room, moving air with the acoustic power of a real human speaking." It sounded reductive, reduced, squeezed down from the real thing. The voice texture sounded artificial - it didn't have the sound of real organic materials, the "wet damped, fleshy" quality of the real human voice. And the reproduced sound overall, whether for vocals or instruments, had a sort of "canned" quality. A slightly hardened "electronic glaze" separated it from the real acoustic sounds in the room. Almost like all the instruments were encased in amber, lacking the "air" and presence of real sounds in the room. Subtle textures that tell you "this is real" had been glazed over, smoothed away.
Yes, I notice something along those lines on most recordings that include natural human voice (and not too much other stuff going on to mask it). A bit like sibilance but much more subtle, modulated and not tied to the usual consonants. I don't have an analog (turntable, valves, etc) system to compare, I expect that would attenuate the effect (I imagine that's one reason why some of people prefer such systems). A sufficiently poor quality system would mask it too (standards earbuds, bluetooth speakers etc).

But I think it's introduced via the recording process initially (microphones, mixing desk, before we even get to the usual effects). I find it's a bit more pronounced on say London Grammar (a fair bit of reverb etc) than Diana Krall (I'd assume more purist recording for audiophile tosh*) but always there. I probably care less for acoustic instruments and music than you, so I associate the effect with voices rather than instruments. It may be a more general thing.

*no offence to anyone
 
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Axo1989

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Absolutely. And more of a mystery than you would think. I was walking down Columbus Avenue on blocks full of small stores, hearing music playing from inside most of them, the ones falling behind me fading away, the ones ahead picking up, and I heard a faint jazz guitar number coming up in the distance, and knew instantly, immediately and with complete certainty that it was live, not recorded. Sure enough, on the corner a couple blocks ahead I came upon a busker with a battered Epiphone and a battery-powered Pignose at his feet.

So, not a natural acoustic instrument, and very limited power and dynamics from his amp. Yet unmistakably happening there and then, not recorded. Open air, not in a room, which makes a difference, but not all the difference, I think. Normally I would blame the miniaturized, compressed qualities recordings have, but the Pignose is a sad little device in itself. We may never figure it out, but I wish we could.

And without beating an expired equine, let's not apologize for accurate, perceptive subjective reports. Suppose recording had never been invented. Until today, when a designer had built a system, using every objective means at his disposal. Suppose he asked you, "What do you think of this?" Your type of report would be absolutely necessary, valuable, essential and useful - as it has been, in fact, in every step of every development. Objective and subjective are not opposites - they are equal and sequential parts of the process.
On a Pignose, I love it.
 

MattHooper

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(I'm not making claims for my tube amps beyond my subjective impressions, but just accepting this "tube amp effect" for the sake of this discussion...)
IMHO, your friend's system neither added nor removed information from the actual source file. His/her system decoded and reproduced information as closest to the source file as possible regardless how good or bad subjectively (based on your subjective preferences). I bet if his/her system is fed with exemplary mastered file, it would've had the same emotional/illusionary realism that is heard in real life. Unfortunately, most music mastered today is far from being natural sounding (subjectively) especially through a transparent system. Vinyl currently fares much better in this regard than digital. This is where pairing a tube amp (with desired harmonic distortion characteristics) would take off the "digital/electronic glaze" to make a poor recording more tolerable sounding hence it triggers a listener's emotions as more engaging than a more transparent system.

I think there is certainly some intuitive sense to much of that.

Though my experience is this: I have listened to excellent, very natural recordings on his system and then mine. Those recordings certainly do sound fairly startling on his...but also on mine, and in some ways I still prefer what I hear on mine. So for instance, a well recorded drum track with the drummer playing various parts of the snare, hitting rim shots as well, playing around the high hat. On his system the transients will have great precision, clarity and acoustic force. And the clarity and lack of distortion means that each hit is that much more individual - the rim shot that much more "hard/metal" sounding than the snare hit, the high hat that much more "metallic" than on my system. In those parameters I hear the sound as "more like the real thing" on his system. But on mine, the sound is still less "squeezed" sounding, seems richer and more full - an aspect I hear in real sound - and seems to "breath in acoustic space" more convincingly. So in that respect it sounds "more like the real thing to me." It depends what I cue in on. And I think such an evaluation will also tend to depend on what the individual listener cues in on as the "more realistic/natural cues" in the sound. I've just found that the tube aspects are the ones I miss most when I use solid state.

On a similar note: I owned MBL radialstrahler omnis for many years. They are brutally inefficient and I original tried some solid state amplification (e.g. Bryston). The thing with the MBLs is that, being an omni-directional speaker, they radiate sound differently in to the room, engage the room acoustics, and so have a more effortlessly 3 dimensional sense of space and imagine. They truly were spooky to listen to, like musicians were just transported down in between the speakers. No other speakers I've had (or heard) did this aspect quite like the MBLs. They were also, especially with the bryston amp, incredibly detailed, like my friend's system.

But, crazy me, I happened to have an old Eico HF 81 14w/side integrated tube amp at the time and threw it on the MBLs. Well waddya know! Yeah the bass got a bit more wooly and sloppy (though not too bad) but for me the sound just got "better" in almost all the ways I care about.
Joseph Audio has a statement on their website:

"Live, unamplified music has unmistakable presence and clarity. Yet, at the same time it also sounds relaxed and warm."

That really captures the gestalt, the general impression, I have of live unamplified music as well. And with the tubes on the MBL they just became more of that: retained amazing clarity and vividness, but it became more "relaxed and warm" and filled out and even more "natural and organic" sounding to my ears.

Having had these experiences so many times, while certainly not scientific, dialing it in to my taste has resulted in finding my system(s) being far more satisfying relative to what I usually hear elsewhere.

Whereas someone else may say "Look, I'm not comparing the sound to live anything, I just want to hear what's on the recording, and so I can put together a system by looking at measurements, and once that is satisfied I just accept the sound as it is." That will of course work for people with that goal as well. But not everyone comes to the hobby with exactly the same experiences, goals, criteria etc.
 

Pdxwayne

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Yes, I notice something along those lines on most recordings that include natural human voice (and not too much other stuff going on to mask it). A bit like sibilance but much more subtle, modulated and not tied to the usual consonants. I don't have an analog (turntable, valves, etc) system to compare, I expect that would attenuate the effect (I imagine that's one reason why some of people prefer such systems). A sufficiently poor quality system would mask it too (standards earbuds, bluetooth speakers etc).

But I think it's introduced via the recording process initially (microphones, mixing desk, before we even get to the usual effects). I find it's a bit more pronounced on say London Grammar (a fair bit of reverb etc) than Diana Krall (I'd assume more purist recording for audiophile tosh*) but always there. I probably care less for acoustic instruments and music than you, so I associate the effect with voices rather than instruments. It may be a more general thing.

*no offence to anyone
Since you mentioned London Grammar, I found her voice kind of harsh in this video. How about you?

 

Axo1989

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Since you mentioned London Grammar, I found her voice kind of harsh in this video. How about you?

Nice performance, but yes I do as well, no question (a bit off the charts really). I mentioned London Grammar because the effect that @MattHooper may be describing (or at least the effect I noticed) is pronounced on many of their recordings. Some of it may originate in her natural voice (I can't tell) but I think it's very much to do with the way they record and process her voice. I hear it on many vocals though, not just theirs, but often to a lesser degree.
 

Mart68

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everyone ascribing these things to the systems and not the rooms the systems are playing in?

I do wonder if 'digital glare' is just room reflections?

I was walking down a street on the edge of town and heard some fantastic-sounding music, deep bass, absolutely perfect. There was a nightclub around the corner that had closed down some time ago and my first thought was that it was re-opening and that they were testing the new sound system.

But when I turned the corner I could see that the club was still all boarded up, the fantastic sound was coming from a car parked outside, doors open, and four youths stood by it smoking.

How could I possibly mistake a car stereo for a two thousand watt club installation? But I did.
 

Billy Budapest

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I voted for “Hard Objectivist,” but I can enjoy music from gear with bad measurements, too. One of my systems is tube, but I don’t pretend that it’s transparent to the source. It can be pleasant to listen to, though.

This saying sums up my beliefs, and I have posted it in the forum a few times:

“Everything that can be heard can be measured, but not everything that can be measured can be heard.”
 
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Billy Budapest

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This is where pairing a tube amp (with desired harmonic distortion characteristics) would take off the "digital/electronic glaze" to make a poor recording more tolerable sounding hence it triggers a listener's emotions as more engaging than a more transparent system.
This myth of “desirable tube amp harmonic distortion characteristics” just won’t die.

Most distortion is at levels so low that the harmonics are inaudible or if technically audible, not noticeable—the harmonic distortion inherent in the speaker drivers will probably mask any harmonics generated by an amplifier anyway.

The real factors at play in tube amp reproduction are the high frequency roll off and—to a much lesser extent—the low damping factor changing the frequency response of the speakers. Both effects together can give a slightly more midrange-present sound that some people will call “warm,” “syrupy,” “sweet,” “dark,” etc. Then again, you could achieve the same effect by adjusting EQ in your playback software, or by your choice of speakers.
 

Foulchet

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That is a tricky dichotomy and we can be objective about what we « hear » because sound is signal received at the and of the date in our brain. We speak more there about different receptors, different circuits.
One is more predictable because mostly univariate, which makes objective analysis easier but that is all.

So I would say « none » because we speak about two different things. They are not independent but there are two much variables then to be that relevant beyond significant thresolds (which are rarely reached with modern electronics).

Because aesthetics does play a larger role in my actual perception, I’d rather buy a beautiful amp than an « uglier » one with a bit better measures.
I objectively notice that I take more « subjective » enjoyement out of it.
That is also the same with some sound characteristics and that is where Measurements can be useful.
 
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Vacceo

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IMHO, your friend's system neither added nor removed information from the actual source file. His/her system decoded and reproduced information as closest to the source file as possible regardless how good or bad subjectively (based on your subjective preferences). I bet if his/her system is fed with exemplary mastered file, it would've had the same emotional/illusionary realism that is heard in real life. Unfortunately, most music mastered today is far from being natural sounding (subjectively) especially through a transparent system. Vinyl currently fares much better in this regard than digital. This is where pairing a tube amp (with desired harmonic distortion characteristics) would take off the "digital/electronic glaze" to make a poor recording more tolerable sounding hence it triggers a listener's emotions as more engaging than a more transparent system.
For you, perhaps. Death Metal and Black Metal sounds terrible on tube amps.

I actually like to listen to the distortion intended by the artist.
 
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